Today, I'm going to talk about the Calvinist doctrine of Eternal Security, also known as Once Saved Always Saved (OSAS), or Perserverence of the Saints. To define this concept briefly, Eternal Security means that if one sincerely accepts Christ at one point in thier lives, then it doesn't matter if they commit any degree or qulaity of sin, or even if they totally renounce God. According to OSAS, as commonly understood, they will still end up in heaven.
Let me first reiterate that one reason I was an agnostic for many years is because of the fact that I was told many lies about God, often by sincere and beleving Christians. I became immersed in atheist literature for a while. I honestly beleived that what Sam Harris had to say in The End of Faith was correct. Christians are rightly concerned with the rise of New Atheism today. But all to often their arguments against Harris, Dawkins, et al. misfire terribly.
Consider the oft-repeated arguement from morality. This holds that since atheism excludes God, there can be no objective basis for morality. It just becomes a matter of opinion. Indeed, atheists cannot measure morality as they can say, the age of the earth or break ethics down into quarks and nuetrons as they can with subatomic particles. Most atheists are strict materialists who believe that if a thing cannot be measured ina laboratory, that is made subject to scientific inquiry and investigation, then it must not exist. What, then, are morals other than cultural artifacts? How can the ethics of one cultural possibly be superior to another since this asseration cannot be tested scientifically? Our leading atheists realize, however, that true moral relativism refutes itself. Sam Harris asserts that morality is merely a question of "happiness vs. suffering." The degree and quality of happiness and/or suffering, is, however, often not easy to determine, and the athiest often runs into a moral quagmire while attempting to do so. A prime example of this would Peter Singer's proposal regarding hemophiliac infants. While happiness and suffering are often important components of morality, this is not always the case. Consider the scenario of a population of humans plugged into a virtual reality program. Imagine that they may experience any manner of pleasure they desire with no repercussions whatever. Their experience is one of utter bliss, yet remain wholly ignorant regarding the reality of their situation. Given the importance most of us hold for Truth, it really morally defensible to keep them in that state? Few would answer that it is.
I beleive that a moral compass should, and usually does, govern human behavior, and this is far more reliable than the approach of attempting to mdetermine the quantity of "happiness" vs. that of "suffering." Such a "rationalist" approach simply won't work when it comes to the thorny problem of morals. It is true that there are times when it is our human prejudices and fears (often the fear of change) which governs our actions, when we suppose it is our moral compass, and here we must be on guard. I rather beleive this to be the case when it comes to certain cases of biotech phobia. This is where our rationality must be used. Is our position on a certain issue liable to reduce human suffering and promote human welfare, not merely in theory but in actuality? I believe that "human welfare" is a much better term than than "happiness."
Back to the moral compass, though. Since we can't determine if a moral compass objectively exists, we must rely on--guess what?--faith. We must take the existence of objective morals as a faith article because there is no other way to do it. There is, however, a huge problem with the "argument from morality," as it is often called. This atheist blog http://atheism.about.com/b/2007/09/19/francis-collins-accomplished-scientist-anti-atheist-bigot.htm offers the following quote by Francis Collins:
18:20: "This is a really important point here: If you want to accept the argument that this knowledge of good and evil, this moral law, is a pure evolutionary artifact, that it is basically an illusion — that there is no good and evil — then why do the atheists insist that we should get over religion and try to be good to each other? Who cares about being good? If they're right, we should all shrug off the whole idea and be just as darn selfish as we possibly can because there is no driving force behind this. We've all been hoodwinked by evolution into thinking that we're supposed to be good and we should rebel against this."
Now idea that Collins is an "anti-atheist bigot" is rediculous. Collins is a renowned scientist credited with his part in mapping the human genome. The athiests can't stand him because they the hate the idea that such a brilliant scientist, of all people, can also be a man of faith. Not surprisingly, Collins often takes it from both sides, even though his accomplishments far outwiegh those of any of his opponents, whether secular or religious. What he is saying here is NOT that atheists have no morals, but that their worldview is inconsistent with beleif in objective morality.
The fact is that all ideologcal athiests definitely have morals, and very strong ones at that, no matter how ideologically inconsistent they might be. If they did not, if they were believers in true moral relativism, they would not have written any of their best-selling books. They would not care about the supposed evils of religion, because true "evil" would be a fiction. they would believe in it no more than they believe in God. They wouldn't care a fig about racism, women's rights, homophobia, intolerance or equality. For the true moral relativist, such things would be not of the slightest moral import. A TRUE moral relativist would simply live it up, for the short time he had on earth, and not bother trying to make the world a better place.
But here is what's shocking. There are may people today who truely do subscribe to a worldview that really does allow for all manner of vice and immorality. What's worse is that they believe that there are no bounds to immoral behavior, and that literally NO act of depravity is too severe for condemnation. They beleive in little reason to behave morally, altruistcally, or to treat other human beings decently.
Social Darwinists? Eugenisits? Islamic Fundementalists? Worshipers of Moloch? Witches and Satanic cultists? What about Neo-Pagans and Druids?
Consider the following comments, gleaned from this site http://www.defendingthegospel.org/articles/article42.html:
"Simply defined, carnality is a spiritual state in which a born-again Christian knowingly, willingly, intentionally and persistently lives to please and serve self rather than Jesus Christ."
“Committed Christians may fall into sin, but a carnal Christian bathes in it. He has the mindset, motivation and methodology of sin."
The speaker here is no atheist or neo-Darwinst, but Dr. Anthony "Tony" Evans, a popular Christian apologist and a beleiver in the docrine of eternal security. He fully believes that such are "carnal" Christian will be in heaven. But to bad for any good percent who lived at decent life, contributed to human welfare, but just didn't happen to get "saved" somewhere along the way.
Or how about these, by Dr. Erwin Lutzer, another noted apologist:
histians can be deceived and live like the ‘sons of disobedience'...struggle with sexual addictions, or Christians who are greedy and idolatrous. We’ve all known Christians who live with these sins...Christians can do evil deeds and be caught in terrible sins. Some die in such a spiritual condition...If Paul meant that those who practice such vices will not enter the kingdom, our own assurance of final salvation would be in constant jeopardy. -Erwin W. Lutzer, Your Eternal Reward
"I am convinced that those who have trusted Christ are in Heaven today even if they died with the sin of murder on their conscience. -Erwin Lutzer, How You Can Be Sure That You Will Spend Eternity With God"
This is where a must add that a very many Christians do beleive in Eternal Security, and there are few, that I imagine, actually lead such grossly immoral lives. I do not even imagine that Dr. Lutzer and Dr. Evans do--but they are promoting the idea "carnal Christianity" is possible--all with the supposed endorsement of God himself! There is a common, and for the most part true, assumption, that once a person accepts Christ, they will be able walk away from sin. In fact, Darin Hufford, author of The Misunderstood God (a book I greatly appreciate, BTW) and who promotes a God is Love theology, states bluntly that Eternal Security DOES, in fact give us license to sin! But once that is done we will walk away from sin. If we experience the Love God has for us, will will no longer experience worldly desire. On the surface I agree with him. However, what about those who claim to have accepted Christ, and continue down a path of gross immorality? One common response from Eternal Security defenders is that such sinners were never saved to begin with. Perhaps. But if NO person who willingly and habitually sins will enter heaven (as the Bible clearly teaches), then ALL "carnal Christians" were indeed never saved. If Hufford's take on Eternal Security merely refers to free will, that we are not forced into obendience, then I agree. The acid test is: does he believe that even the most heinous individuals will be in heaven, or doesn't he? Evans, Lutzer, and many others do, and preach as much in their sermons and books.
Here is a site with an interesting story by an atheist:
The comment I found particularly moving was the one following:
"At that point, for a few moments I just stood there shaking my head. I’ve seen too many times the results of a good Christian upbringing. You see these ignorant people beating their children, while shopping in stores. Their children grow up believing they can do anything they want; as long as they repent their sins to Jesus. The prisons are bursting at the seams with Christians."
Hmmm. Wonder why? Notice that the author, an athiest, never questions why he thinks his own children have grown up moral and decent, and his friend's entire family seems consumed by vice and squalor. Prison? Drugs? HIV? What's really going on here? Naturally, the assumption he's making is that it must have something to do with religion per se, about beleiving in "irrationality."
But is it?
He'll never likely concede Christianity might possibly be true, so he won't bother delving deeper into the problem. If he bothered he just might find these are the "carnal Christians" Dr. Evans and Dr. Lutzer beleive will be enjoying the fruits of everlasting bliss, while freethinkers who have lived a good life while be tormented for eternity.
Now, reader, ask yourself. What sort of God, exactly, do Evans and Lutzer subscribe to? The answer is: not a moral one.
My point is that the real villain here, the one responsible for casting Christians in a bad light, fueling the fires of ideological atheism, is not Christianity. Eternal Security, however might well be the real culprit.
It is true, some defenders of Eternal Security may point out that may lose thier rewards in heaven, even though they are saved. Thus the God they beleive in is therefore not entirely morally indifferent. However, this morality is a marginal one to say the least. It is unlikely, that fear of losing these (intangible seeming) rewards in heaven is likely to dissuade many form a sinful life in the here and now, if they so choose. As said before, I'm not saying that simply believing in this doctrine will result in a ammoral or immoral lifestyle. On the other hand, it is certainly not impossible, as an example on the following page shows, of a man the suthor knew who beleived anything he chose to do was God's will:
There are two reasons I beleive people may wish to beleive in Eternal Security. One is simply the assurence that one is saved. That's perfectly understandable. I do NOT beleive that a "conditional" security means a single sinful act will cause one to lose one's salvation. How about repeated acts? They won't cause God to abandon one. But the thing is that sin deadens the heart to God, and therefore cause one to put oneself before others. I do not know exactly where the "cut off" point would be, but it would be when one was living one was living mostly or entirely for oneself, even if one still claimed to have faith.
The other reason for wishing to beleive in Eternal Security may in fact be a desire to sin without fear of losing one's salvation. Since were's all Fallen humans, why should this not be a core motive?